Press Release

Brazil: OHCHR and IACHR express concern over federal intervention in Rio de Janeiro

March 13, 2018

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Washington, D.C. - The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the South America office of the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) expressed their "deep concern" over the presidential decree that authorizes a federal intervention regarding matters of public order in the state of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The agencies observed that Decree No. 9288, signed on February 16 and approved by the National Congress, grants extensive powers to the armed forces to restore order and places the police forces under the command of an Army general.

"We are concerned about the fact that this decree does not sufficiently specify its scope and implementation terms, nor the conditions that justify adopting an exceptional measure of this nature," the OHCHR and the IACHR noted. "Without these safeguards, the implementation of a federal intervention can result in serious violations of human rights, in particular the rights to life and personal integrity."

The entities recalled that States should limit the use of the armed forces to control internal disturbances as much as possible, given that the training they receive is aimed at militarily defeating an enemy, not at the protection and control of civilians.

Recalling that the use of force by State agents must always follow the principles of legality, proportionality and necessity, the OHCHR and the IACHR expressed their concern over statements by authorities responsible for implementing the federal intervention, referring to a supposed need to lead a "war" on drugs and organized crime in Rio de Janeiro.

"We urge the Brazilian State to develop, in a broad and participatory manner, a drug policy based on human rights, with a comprehensive approach on social reintegration, which prioritizes a public health approach and refrains from focusing on repressive and criminalization actions " they stated.

The IACHR and OHCHR also pointed out that the federal intervention can have a disproportionate impact on the human rights of people of African descent, adolescents and those living in poor areas. The entities note the creation of a Human Rights Observatory of the Federal Intervention in Public Security in the State of Rio de Janeiro (ObservaRIO) by means of a Ministry of Justice decree, and call on this mechanism to ensure effective participation by civil society organizations and affected communities.

Finally, the IACHR and OHCHR recall that on October 13, 2017, they rejected the modification of the military penal code to permit malicious homicides of civilians committed by agents of the armed forces be tried by military tribunals. The organisms underlined at that time that the State should guarantee that criminal proceedings against military personnel be examined in courts of ordinary jurisdiction and not in the criminal military jurisdiction, in order to avoid impunity for human rights violations.

A principal, autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS), the IACHR derives its mandate from the OAS Charter and the American Convention on Human Rights. The Inter-American Commission has a mandate to promote respect for and to defend human rights in the region and acts as a consultative body to the OAS in this area. The Commission is composed of seven independent members who are elected in an individual capacity by the OAS General Assembly and who do not represent their countries of origin or residence.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) is mandated to promote and protect the enjoyment and full realization, for all persons, of all rights set forth in the Charter of the United Nations and international laws and treaties of human rights. OHCHR develops its work in the light of the mandate entrusted to it by the General Assembly of the United Nations in its resolution 48/141. Its global headquarters is located in Geneva, Switzerland. The OHCHR Regional Office for South America is located in Santiago, Chile and covers the following countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela.

No. 047/18